Goodbye VNR, hello discounted notes

Mortgage_Loan_Approved1This may be a bit of shock to the readers of my blog, I have sold my entire stock position and used the cash to buy some discounted notes.

Say what?!?!

Anybody that has read my blog for awhile is aware that some of my most passionate articles have been about my big position in Vanguard Natural Resources (VNR). And it’s true. VNR has averaged a yield to 7.5%. In fact, in light of the recent sell off the market, their dividend yield is now looking like 14%+. Suffice it to say, VNR has been pretty good. To top things off, the HELOC I used to buy a majority of my position has been knocked down by 20% thanks to monthly distributions from my past position.

So why drop something so good? Because I have something better. First, a little background.

Discounted notes

What are discounted notes? A “note” is another word for a loan. And we’re talking about real estate loans, i.e. mortgages. When you secure a mortgage with the bank, they hold what is referred to as a note. When you buy a note from someone, you hand them a chunk of cash in exchange for receiving the monthly payments from whomever secured the loan. You also take over the lien on the property meaning that you have the power to foreclose and sell the property to get your money back in case something goes wrong.

To top things off, there are different positions regarding notes. When a foreclosure happens, the notes get collected in order. 1st position notes get first dibs on collecting on the sale until their obligation is satisfied, then 2nd position, etc. The name of the game is to get a first position, discounted note, secured by a piece of real estate, ideally where the value of the property exceeds what you paid for the note.

Time for a real world example in the realm of discounted notes. Imagine someone decided to buy a house for $125,000. They go to the bank and put down $25,000 cash and borrow $100,000 at 5% for 30 years. The monthly payment would be about $536/month to the borrower.

Now, for whatever reason, the bank that loaned out that cash needs some money fast. So, they decide to sell the note. Perhaps at the time, the balance is now down to $90,000 based on past payments. But to move the note quickly, they are willing to part with it in exchange for $65,000 of cash. That’s where you step in. If you have $65,000 burning a whole in your pocket, you can buy the note and start receiving $536/month backed by a total obligation of $90,000.

What are the numbers? Over twelve months, you would receive a little over $6400. And since it only cost you $65,000, the yield on that would be 9.9%. This is not only higher than the original loan’s rate of 5%, but is in fact higher than the 7.5% yield of VNR. Tiny hint: the note I bought is actually yielding 12%. Sweet!

In addition to collecting monthly payments, people are paying off loans all the time. Let’s fast forward and imagine that we managed to collect five years of payments. That would add up to $32,160. The principal balance would be down to about $79,000 (remember, you are the one collecting the interest). At that stage, the person, perhaps through inheritance, perhaps through devote saving, decides to pay off their note by sending you a check for that remaining balance. You have now collected a total of $111,160, virtually doubling your initial investment. Given the timeline of 5 years, that would be a 14.4% ROI. With your bigger pile of money, you can now go and buy some more notes. Rinse and repeat.


So what are the trade offs? There are always tradeoffs. When you buy a stock, you can get in and out in a second. You can buy a big position, and sixty seconds later, sell it all. I built up my stock position over a couple years and then cleared it out in no time flat. I sold VNR at a peak price of $30.85/unit. Today, VNR was dragging along at $17/unit thanks to the panic of the energy market. I nicely pocketed a nice 10% total gain on the money I had stuffed into my brokerage account. That wasn’t pure skill on my end. It was fortuitous. The time frame it has taken me to cash in and wait for a note has been seven months. I have been paying off my HELOC out of the 10% gain, and still come out ahead.

All in all, it’s pretty nice compared to this recent massive sell off that has fleeced many people’s mutual fund accounts.

Notes don’t work like stocks. Each note has to be investigated. Is it a first position note? Is it a performing note (meaning the borrower is currently paying and up-to-date)? What is the value of the property that is collateralizing the note?

This is an area where DIY can kill you. You need professional people that know this industry. It’s why I have been working with Jeff Brown for about a year and his efforts to find the best note investment company to work with. Jeff has decades of note buying experience, which means he knows the questions to ask when researching companies that deal with notes. In fact, he has fine-tuned what is known as the “Bawld Guy Fund” and how it operates to make it worth my time. For example, every note this company gets appears to have a life of about 20 minutes before someone snatches it up. Sound stressful? The Bawld Guy Fund lets top tier members get first dibs for two weeks. Then second tier members (me) get second dibs for two weeks. After that, any member can go for a note. That’s fair in my book.

The note I bought also includes a warranty, so if it stops performing, I can still collect and not lose my money. Did you even know about warranties? Didn’t think so.

At the end of the day, what we seek is yield. We want to grow our net worth with a solid yield. And as Dr. Dave has shown, we need double digit growth if we expect to enter retirement with someone of value. By slowly but surely moving my investment portfolio into real estate, EIULs, and discounted notes, my net worth is not based on flimsy mutual funds, but instead on tools that minimize losses during down years, and instead, are poised to do well in positive years.

Happy investing!

2 thoughts on “Goodbye VNR, hello discounted notes”

  1. Lucky timing on the exit from VNR. Congrats on owning a note – looking forward to a post on the specifics of how you did your due diligence.

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